Leahy pushes administration on COVID-19 medical aid to Cuba

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Leahy pushes administration on COVID-19 medical aid to Cuba

Wed, 05/06/2020 - 10:41am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) on Tuesday headed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to confirm that US policy does not preclude companies and humanitarians from providing essential medical equipment, food, and information to the people of Cuba to combat COVID-19.

In a letter signed by Leahy, McGovern and 25 members of the Senate and the House, they note that it is “dangerous and contrary to our longstanding tradition of not politicizing the delivery of humanitarian aid. In such an unprecedented emergency caused by a deadly virus that is so easily transmissible, public health and safety must take precedence.”

Their letter follows:

May 5, 2020

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

Department of State

Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

Department of the Treasury

Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin:

We write to urge you to immediately confirm that companies and humanitarians around the world are not precluded under U.S. law, regulation, or policy from providing medical equipment, food, other humanitarian items, and public health information, to Cuba.

Cuba, which already suffers from acute shortages of food and medicines, is facing a public health crisis due to COVID-19.  Given Cuba’s proximity to the United States, transmission of the virus there threatens the health and safety of not only Cubans but Americans and others in the Caribbean region, regardless of whatever measures the Cuban Government takes to try to limit its spread.

Whether or not these humanitarian items are technically prohibited under the U.S. embargo, we are aware of reports that foreign companies have been deterred from providing such items to Cuba, including to respond to COVID-19, due to burdensome regulatory and reporting requirements and fear of prosecution or penalty under U.S. law.  This is dangerous and contrary to our longstanding tradition of not politicizing the delivery of humanitarian aid.  In such an unprecedented emergency caused by a deadly virus that is so easily transmissible, public health and safety must take precedence. 

We appreciate your prompt attention to this request and look forward to hearing from you.

(TUESDAY, May 5, 2020) – Senator Patrick Leahy